The ruling stems from an arbitration lawsuit that was partially dismissed due to “unclear and unenforceable” provisions of the non-disclosure agreement.
Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign has been ordered to pay more than $ 300,000 in attorney’s fees and costs to a former employee whom campaign attorneys said violated the terms of a non-disclosure agreement when she accused Mr. Trump of forcibly removing her in 2016. kissed.
The ruling, which culminates in an arbitration lawsuit that was rejected in November, is the latest example of Trump’s failure to apply a non-disclosure agreement against a former worker.
The solution to the lawsuit filed by Mr. Trump’s campaign in September 2019 came less than a year after he lost similar efforts to enforce non-disclosure agreements against Jessica Denson, a former campaign worker, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide. . and star in the movie “Apprentice.”
Victor E. Bianchini, a retired federal judge, cited both cases in his March 10 ruling when he ruled in favor of Alva Johnson, a former pre-election worker who unsuccessfully sued Mr Trump in 2019 for kissing her on the mouth against her will during the August 2016 campaign halt.
Trump’s campaign “was invested in silencing other employees who were fired or somehow criticized the candidate in other ways,” Judge Bianchini wrote, adding that the campaign appears to have been “a request for arbitration largely motivated by respect for the NDA and reducing any criticism of the candidate. “
Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for Mr Trump, said the decision to award Ms Johnson and her lawyers after a federal judge rejected her case was “pathetic and completely contrary to the rule of law and a reasonable sense of justice”.
“Everyone can see that Johnson’s blatant lies and bad faith are completely preventing her from gaining through her illegal actions,” she said in a statement.
After Judge Bianchini rejected the arbitration claim in November and called the agreement “vague and unenforceable” in the confidentiality provisions, Ms. Johnson’s lawyers filed a motion demanding that Trump’s campaign pay for attorney’s and other costs.
The March 10 ruling ordered Trump’s campaign to pay more than $ 303,000 in legal costs and Ms. Johnson’s costs.
Ms. Johnson, 46, said she was “really happy” with the decision.
Mr Trump’s lawyers “wanted to handcuff me for four years,” Ms Johnson said in a brief interview Friday. “They came pretty hard behind me.”
Her lawyer, Hassan Zavareei, said on Friday that the Trump campaign was trying to use the non-disclosure agreement “as a stick to silence what we consider important public speech by one of the few members of the minority campaign”.
In early 2019, Ms. Johnson, a black man, filed a federal lawsuit against Mr. Trump, accusing him of grabbing her during the 2016 campaign stop and kissing her as she tried to turn away.
“I immediately felt threatened because I didn’t expect or want to,” Ms. Johnson told The Washington Post in February 2019.
But a federal judge, after watching a video of the meeting, questioned her version of events and dismissed the lawsuit in June 2019.
Judge William Jung of the U.S. District Court for Central Florida called the appeal “political” and told Ms. Johnson he could file an amended lawsuit. In the end, she decided not to continue the case, saying she was threatened by Trump supporters and believed she would not succeed before Judge Jung, who was proposed to the indictment bench by Trump in 2017.
Judge Bianchini said he watched the video and found that nothing “inappropriate” had happened.
“No objective person was able to watch a video of the meeting like anything that would even remotely support an accusation of violence, kissing, assault or anything else,” he wrote. “The federal judge saw it and the arbitrator sees it.”
Mr Trump’s campaign could lodge complaints against Ms Johnson for “malicious persecution or defamation in the relevant forum,” Judge Bianchini wrote.
Instead, his campaign filed an arbitration appeal on September 23, 2019, alleging that Ms. Johnson violated a non-disclosure agreement with the campaign by “disclosing confidential information” and “making contemptuous statements about Trump”.
This agreement, Judge Bianchini wrote, was “decided unconstitutional” in the cases of Ms. Denson, Ms. Manigault Newman and Mary Trump, Mr. Trump’s niece, who wrote memoirs about the family.
Even if the motive for the campaign was not to silence Ms. Johnson, “enforcing the NDA was an inappropriate choice because of its unconstitutionality,” Judge Bianchini wrote.
Judge Bianchini said that in the November rejection of the arbitration lawsuit, he found that she considered Ms. Johnson “untrue in her accusations” against Mr. Trump. In a March 10 ruling, he described how the video shows Ms. Johnson “offering a face“ with lips ”in the air next to his face”.
It was “understandable” that Trump’s campaign would have been upset over Ms. Johnson’s reimbursement of costs in arbitration resulting from a case that was ultimately dismissed, Judge Bianchini wrote.
But the arbitration’s accusation of her is “wrong and erroneous,” he said in his ruling.
Mr Zavareei said he had refused to characterize Mrs Johnson’s claims by Judge Bianchini. Their validity should be determined by a jury, not “two senior white judges,” he said.
“Our position is that this is a practice that should not be taken in any workplace,” Mr Zavareei said. “She is a campaign worker. She is the only person who has touched and kissed. “